Make way for the multitalented and multicultural Mahoyo. With projects encompassing music, design and fashion, the hardworking duo are breaking down boundaries, one stereotype at a time, and giving women everywhere a voice.
Farah Yusuf and MyNa Do are the two powerhouses behind Mahoyo, a Stockholm-based art, fashion and culture duo who work as DJs, stylists, costume designers, photographers and artists on projects that take them far from home. “We want to use culture as a weapon,” says Yusuf. “Many of the ideas for our projects come from our travels and our interest in developments in the urban music, fashion and art scenes around the world.”
Using their multidisciplinary platform and an urban, feminist perspective as their starting point, they explore ideas and work on projects in the global cultural sphere. “We also want to use culture as a way to make changes in society, especially for women, for people of colour, and for the LGBTQI community.”
This year the duo have been promoting The Mahoyo Project, a documentary film they produced last year in collaboration with Flip-Flop Interactive that examines and aims to break stereotypes based on gender, race and location. The film follows Mahoyo during a cultural exchange that took them to South Africa to join forces with local artists who are active in urban music, fashion and dance in Johannesburg. It is meshed with interviews with Mahoyo collaborators from Stockholm’s creative scene as well.
“The Mahoyo Project has received such a great response. It’s made us want to do another film,” says Do. “The trailer was featured on Solange [Knowles]’s website, after first being featured on the Okayafrica website, which really opened up our project to many more people than we imagined. We haven’t really marketed the project that much, but the film has been shown at festivals in Berlin, Philadelphia and Stockholm.”
Yusuf and Do have been close friends since childhood, growing up together in the small Swedish town of Oskarshamn. Mahoyo was born seven years ago, starting off as an e-tailer that offered unique streetwear items specially selected from international labels. They then started arranging parties and events for their network of friends, which included an urban posse of dancers, MCs and DJs in their town.
Trips to Tokyo and New York gave them creative energy and they started DJ-ing, which opened up further opportunities, with highlights over the years including DJ-ing at the VICE x Smirnoff party in Berlin in 2010 and opening for Robyn in concert at Helsingborg the following year.
“Going to Tokyo was an eye-opener. It really changed everything about the way we approached work,” says Yusuf. “We met people who had several different professions at the same time — people who worked as graphic designers and DJs and stylists.”
The idea of being able to work across several industries simultaneously hadn’t occurred to them before they travelled to Japan. “We’re from a small town in Sweden; we hadn’t seen anyone working in multiple areas like that before we saw it for ourselves in Tokyo,” says Do. “We also saw a lot of women DJ-ing in Tokyo and that encouraged us to step up our game and to create opportunities for other women to DJ. We wanted to show that it doesn’t always have to be guys playing music at parties.”
The two explain that they haven’t followed a singular path in the development of Mahoyo projects, but rather have been “doing things that [we] feel are important” — “Everything we do is activism, because of who we are,” explains Do.
Requests for their DJ workshops, styling and costume design have meant that Mahoyo are now able to work across a broad range of areas within the cultural landscape. Their work is gaining recognition and their presence at festivals around the globe, such as Afropunk Paris and Afropunk New York earlier this year, means that a much wider audience is discovering the Swedish duo. Other recent projects have included designing costumes for a play by Farnaz Arbabi, opening this month at Unga Klara theatre, Stockholm.
“It’s really surreal to meet young women and people of colour in cities around the world who don’t know us, but they know our work, and they thank us for what we do and for giving them a voice,” says Yusuf. “I feel so blessed. We hustled like hell in the early days. It’s hard to believe that the things we do today all started from a web shop, but they did.”
Words by Tsemaye Opubor
Photography by Elis Hoffman